At 11 a.m., a Toronto City Council member has approved a noise-regulated exemption for a special event in honor of Muhtadi Thomas, one of the pioneers of Toronto’s drum community.
It was touch and go for a while when the organizers of Muhtadi Day, which will be held in and around Wychwood Barns, 601 Christie St., on Sunday, October 17 from 6 p.m. 11 to 17, took issue with the way Coun. Josh Matlow provides outdoor noise allowances.
Toronto-St. Paul’s representative has made it a standard practice to measure local approval for higher than usual events.
“I really want to understand if there would be community support for an exception … That’s what we do with everyone,” he told toronto.com.
For Muhtadi Day, that meant getting written approval from the Wychwood Children’s Community Association (WBCA).
Joe Thomas, who handles the organization of the upcoming event as his big brother, Muhtadi’s, health fails due to Parkinson’s disease, said they felt that after 20 years of successful holding of the Muhtadi International Drumming Festival, it was not necessary to apply it or any group approval. The organization has never before had to demonstrate community purchases to get outdoor noise allowance.
In a highly worded Facebook post, Thomas said they “would not seek help or recommendation from the WBCA! This is insulting and racist! Our group has promoted diversity and inclusion throughout its existence! ”
Thomas also took issue with the association’s long-standing lack of diversity.
“WBCA is just a community association in name. During its many years of existence, it has functioned as a white social club, “he wrote in the post on 3 October.
Currently, the WBCA’s board of directors consists of 14 members consisting of seven people who identify themselves as BIPOC.
Thomas also said just a few weeks ago that the WBCA was holding an outdoor event with a noise provision at the same venue, but did not invite the Muhtadi drummers to perform. In an email to toronto.com, the community association stated that its September 18 event Music at the Barns “predominantly had BIPOC artists.”
Increasingly frustrated by emails from Matlow’s staff, seen by toronto.com, that WBCA’s support would help them obtain noise abatement, Thomas announced on September 29 that Muhtadi Day was canceled “due to cold racist circumstances beyond our control! ”
A few days later, the event was recycled as a casual indoor gathering at Wychwood Barns for up to 250 fully vaccinated people, but all outdoor drumming was discontinued.
On October 6, the WBCA emailed Thomas (and Muhtadi) to endorse his support for Muhtadi Day’s request for an exemption from noise, which Matlow admitted later that day.
In the note, the group also acknowledged the diversity challenges it faces.
“We appreciate that diversity has been an issue both at the WBCA and elsewhere in society. That said, we at WBCA make a significant effort to prioritize diversity and inclusion, ”said the WBCA.
“Supporting black artists in our society is a priority for us. To that end, we support your event and please let us know what we can do to help. ”
Matlow said what had happened in recent weeks had nothing to do with “asking a white group for their permission”, adding that it was disturbing and unfair that Thomas would mean that he and his staff are racist.
He said Thomas has also inaccurately characterized the WBCA, which he stated “reflects the diversity of the community.”
Further, Matlow said the community association also demanded neighbor support to obtain their noise allowance from September 18 and had to address any concerns people in the area had before it was given.
The councilor in Section 12 further said they were “surprised” when the organizers of Muhtadi Day announced that it was canceled.
“We tried to get a yes … We never said no to them,” Matlow said, admitting they “could have conveyed (their) expectations more clearly.”
In a follow-up interview after the waiver was granted, Thomas said what happened was “total disrespect” and “unnecessary”.
“Whether it was intentional or not, the result was a disturbing situation,” he said.